RED WINGS (9-6-1) at SHARKS (9-5-1)
TV: FS-D (HD), CSN-CA (HD)
Last 10: Detroit 4-5-1; San Jose 7-2-1
Season Series : This is the second of four meetings between two of the Western Conference's premier teams. They played in Detroit on Oct. 28, a game in which San Jose captain Joe Thornton scored two goals, including the game-winner, in a 4-2 win.
Big Story: While neither team is perched atop the Western Conference, they've both showed flashes of the play that has made them two of the NHL's marquee franchises over the past decade. Detroit undid the damage of an uncharacteristic six-game losing streak with four straight wins before Tuesday's 2-1 loss in St. Louis, and the Sharks' early-season five-game win streak has them near the top of the ultra-competitive Pacific Division.
Red Wings: The lengthy skid the Red Wings experienced early in the season had fans fearing that Detroit would lose seven straight for the first time in more than two decades. The last Wings team to do it, the 1990-91 club, finished the season with a sub-500 record. However, the Wings snapped the six-game losing streak with a convincing 5-0 win against Anaheim on Nov. 5 before proceeding to win their next three games. The Wings looked to make it five wins in a row on Tuesday in St. Louis, but the Blues had other plans, outshooting Detroit 30-13 after the first period.
"Our performance tonight was unacceptable," said Niklas Kronwall, who played 21:59 despite being hurt on a check from behind by Chris Stewart, who subsequently earned a three-game suspension for the hit. "We're losing way too many battles, made too many mistakes. Our power play wasn't good enough. We had some chances. We just have to bear down."
Sharks: An early five-game win streak had the Sharks showing the form that put them in the Conference Final each of the last two seasons. A 5-2 loss at Madison Square Garden on Halloween snapped the streak, but San Jose rebounded nicely by going 3-0-1 in their next four games. Playing their fourth in a five-game homestand, the Sharks hoped to continue that run on Saturday against the Coyotes.
Against the Sharks, Radim Vrbata and Boyd Gordon gave Phoenix a 2-0 lead before the game was 20 minutes old. The Sharks outshot the Coyotes 24-12 in the next two periods, but failed to get a shot past Mike Smith, who stopped 31 shots to earn a 3-0 win, his first shutout of the season. "It was a bad start," San Jose forward Ryane Clowe said. "Bang, bang the first period is over and we're down 2-0. It was uphill from there."
Who's Hot: For the Wings, Drew Miller is enjoying a three-game point streak in which he has three points while captain Nicklas Lidstrom has eight points in his last nine games and Valtteri Filppula has six in his last five games. … San Jose's Patrick Marleau has five points in his last three games and Dan Boyle has seven points in his last seven games.
Injury Report : Defenseman Ian White is out for the Wings with a broken cheekbone while Todd Bertuzzi is on IR with a sinus infection that has caused dizziness. … The Sharks are not missing any major pieces of their roster.
Stat Pack: The Sharks and Red Wings have cultivated quite a rivalry over the past two playoff seasons. The two teams have played 12 playoff games, with the Sharks winning eight, over the past two playoff years. Only the Canucks and Blackhawks, with 13 matchups, have competed in more playoff games in that span.
Puck Drop: With every game played, Lidstrom continues to climb the all-time games played list. Five more games and he will pass his former teammate, Steve Yzerman, for 13th on the all-time list. After that, he'll be 10 games short of another former teammate, Brendan Shanahan.